Smash Season 2 Watch: Episode 3, The Dramaturg
I’ve been a Smash apologist, always telling myself and my friends that it might just reach the heights of that fantastic pilot. But after outings like last night’s “The Dramaturg” and the almost-laughably-bad ratings of the premiere, I’m sad to say that I’m not sure we’re ever going to see “Bombshell” as the titular Broadway smash. This season is so far making up for last season’s mistakes in small ways, but it’s missing the vital components that make it a story worth watching.
Season 1 was a hot mess, but it gave us characters we could care for and occasionally empathize with—and even if it came in the form of peanut-laced smoothies (ugh), every episode had conflicts and heroes and villains and resolution. Yes, it was soapy, but it went somewhere, and it felt like a hyperdramatized version of what Broadway might actually feel like. Yes, the side stories were unnecessary, and they’re gone now; the problem is that what’s left isn’t so enthralling.
“The Dramaturg” seemed to be a deliberate attempt to sink the show—light on songs, without any real movement for the musical due to “Bombshell” being in flux, and stuck on that most boring point of the artistic process: the script revision. It almost seems like the entire team is thumbing its collective nose at us, daring us to change the channel. And another week like this, and the nine and a half of us still watching will do just that.
I will say this—Daniel Sunjata is a good looking guy, and a bona-fide Broadway star (google his appearances in a play called “Take Me Out” from about ten years ago to see exactly how good he is)—but here, he’s wooden, pretentious, and unlikable. I guess we’re supposed to believe he and Julia are eventually going to knock booties, but aside from being super-handsome, rich, and OCD enough to stack books and plays in his apartment like that, what does this guy have going for him? Is EVERYONE on this show going to doink a bad boy before it’s cancelled? Ho hum.
The scene that dramaturg Peter stresses and adds to the show actually adds nothing. He keeps talking about a need to add “heat,” but wedging in JFK doesn’t do much besides create a scene that feels like something I’d find on Cinemax at 2am. Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 failed because we were constantly being told that mediocre sketch comedy was actually brilliant; this is starting to feel exactly the same, but about musical theater.
At the end of the day, watching Julia and Tom revise the script is about as exciting as watching CSPAN. Derek is gravitating towards a revival of “The Wiz,” and his rakish confidence seems all but gone. And I desperately want Karen to do something that makes her interesting.
The songs were just awful this time around—as much as I hate Jimmy, why didn’t we get an 11th hour number at the end of this episode to bring the house down? Jeremy Jordan can bring it, as we saw in the premiere. He hasn’t been utilized properly here. And don’t get me started on Jennifer Hudson’s terrible self-lip-sync. Shame on the editors for letting that pass like that.
There were some things I really liked. I like the idea of “The Hit List,” and I want that to take over the plot of this show. I just want it sung instead of flatly narrated, as it was here. And hey, Karen crowd-diving was at least appealing eye-candy. Which, frankly, may be all this show has going for it in a week or two.
So, what did you think, friends? Who’s jumping ship? I’m on the fence.
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